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Car Owners to be Notified of Blackboxes in Vehicle 334

smooth wombat writes "As a follow-up to this long ago posting, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has passed a resolution requiring car manufacturers to inform buyers if their cars are equipped with Event Data Recorders (EDRs). The new regulation also standardizes what information is to be collected. Car manufacturers must comply with the new regulation beginning in the 2011 model year."
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Car Owners to be Notified of Blackboxes in Vehicle

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  • Good move... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ral315 ( 741081 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:20PM (#15951395)
    But what happens when all cars have black boxes, and there's no way to avoid buying a new car with one in it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:27PM (#15951453)
    Because in the event of an accident the police can easily download the events off the black box and use it against you in court. It's happened several times already.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:39PM (#15951539)
    Technically once the vehicle is totaled it becomes property of the insurance company and they need no such authorization from the owner. Your permission is NOT needed for them to collect the data.
  • by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:52PM (#15951648) Homepage
    The Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution prohibits a government actor from compelling a person to make self-incriminating statements. Papers and other writings previously authored by a criminal defendant do not constitute such a statement, though it may be self-incriminating. In a recent case, the NY Court of Appeals ruled that tattoos of a criminal defendant can be admitted against him over his objection to prove he subscribed to white supremacist beliefs because such evidence was not a protected statement.

    To answer the second question, namely, whether destroying the device violates the law. In short, it depends. Destruction motivated by a desire to hinder justice is illegal. If the car was involved in an accident, or there was another reason to believe that the device in the car would be important in a civil matter, destruction of that device would lead to sanctions. Civil liberties sell great here on Slashdot, but imagine if your child or family member was hit and injured by a guy who was street racing. The prosecution needs to prove speeding or reckless driving to convict the defendant on the most serious charges. Would you say that getting data from a device in that case would be wrong? In this particular case, the argument "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" flies pretty well because the information on the device could exculpate the defendant as well.
  • by JonWan ( 456212 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:05PM (#15951727)
    Not until I agree to the insurance payoff and sign it over, it's mine until then.

    Been there and done that one.
  • by BearRanger ( 945122 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:21PM (#15951855)
    To all of the /.ers who want to just remove the EDR. It's an integral part of the engine management computer. You can't remove it and have the car continue to function. I predict a future aftermarket business for replacement management computers without the data recording aspects.

    But the answer to your question is no. A new law isn't needed.

    The thing you have to realize is that there are very few "accidents" in traffic situations. There's a reason the police refer to them as "collisions" and not accidents--because usually someone has done/failed to do something that causes it. That usually involves recklessness or negligence on the part of the driver. Those actions ARE crimes, whether or not there was a specific intent to commit a crime. In my area the police are trained to immediately download the information from the EDR at the accident scene. No driver permission required, because it's part of the investigation of the cause of the collision. Police accident investigators have a handheld device that plugs into a port in the vehicle that downloads the data from the EDR for later analysis.

    By the way, vehicles that are equipped with GPS services such as OnStar automatically call authorities in the event of a collision. Do you really believe that they couldn't also upload the EDR contents at the same time? I'm not saying they *do* that, but it's not inconceivable.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:23PM (#15951870)
    Not that I'm defending this practice, but speeding does not automatically result in an insurance claim being denied. Driving 2 MPH over the limit would never be seen as a reason to assign fault for an accident or deny a claim.
  • by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:28PM (#15951908)
    Have you ever challenged a traffic ticket in court? Did they require the state to prove their case? How else would you get out of the ticket?
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @07:15PM (#15952190) Journal
    Have you ever challenged a traffic ticket in court? Did they require the state to prove their case? How else would you get out of the ticket?
    Actually... yes, they require the state to prove their case.

    If you can poke a hole in the police version of events, you're home free. Hell, if the Police wrote down the wrong information on the ticket, pleading not guilty = case dismissed.

    All you have to do is show that the facts, as presented by the police, are incorrect, even if it is something as simple as a wrong date on the traffic citation. Knowledge of the law helps in those not-so-simple cases.
  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:33PM (#15952574) Homepage
    Most judges won't dismiss based on something as minor as the wrong date. In some jurisdictions (Virginia, for example), even something like the cop not showing up won't automatically get you off (despite the fact that he's the only witness, therefore you're losing the crucial right to cross-examination).

    If you've been tagged with radar/laser, the best solution for most people, especially those with a clean record, is just to plead guilty (IN COURT -- don't pay in advance), apologize, and ask for the mercy of the court. Emphasize your record, and that you really want to keep it spot free and promise that this was a one-time thing. If your case has anything unusual about it, then it might be beneficial to argue, but in most cases it's not and will only convince the judge that you're not remorseful and therefore deserve the full punishment.

    Speeding tickets are income; it's as simple as that. There's no incentive for the courts to take the cases seriously because there's a ton of cases and, for most people, the penalties are minor enough that they won't do anything beyond complaining to their friends. Hiring a lawyer usually means the case will just last longer, which will likely irritate the judge -- not what you want to do. The reality is that speeding in and of itself is not reckless or dangerous. If passing someone going 20MPH faster on a freeway is reckless, then by that logic, passing someone coming the opposite direction on a two lane road at 45MPH (closing speed of 90) must be downright suicidal, yet somehow most of the country manages such feats without much of a problem. Dodging, weaving, driving erratically, unpredictibly, and/or inattentively is what's really dangerous. The fact that speeding often accompanies those behaviors, and the fact that it's easier to spot speeders than inattentive drivers has villianized speeding. The fact that some people get mad seeing others "break the law" while they're working hard to obey it doesn't help either. These people don't question the rules; they just want everyone to follow them because they feel obliged to. They're free feel that way, of course, but it just perpetuates the situation.

    At any rate, speeding tickets aren't much of a problem for most people, because they're statistically unlikely to get more than an occasional ticket. Unfortunately -- by virtue of random distribution -- some people accumulate a lot of tickets and suffer serious, life-altering consequences such as losing their license indefinately. The "simple" solution is, of course, driving the speed limit, but in most places that's tough to do. "Peer pressure" to go with the flow of traffic can be overwhelming, especially for new drivers/young people, and the flow is rarely at or below the speed limit. Nobody wants to be "that guy" with 20 cars stuck behind him. Furthermore there's no such thing as a perfect driver, since we're all human. It's just a matter of chance as to whether there's a cop around to see you screw up, and whether or not he wants to write tickets.
  • by sbaker ( 47485 ) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:09PM (#15952745) Homepage
    The MINI Cooper (for example - probably all BMW's are the same) has this data recorded in the engine management computer. It records a couple of minutes of typical 'black box' stuff - control inputs, wheel speed sensor outputs, etc - in a loop. Recording stops and the data is locked into non-erasable memory when the airbags deploy. The computer has only enough of this special memory for (I believe) three sets of data - so if you have three accidents that result in the airbags deploying, you have to replace the engine management computer.

    Since the data is there - and not easily erased - one presumes it could be subpoened in a court case if someone believed you lied about (for example) whether you were braking hard or accellerating hard immediately before the impact. They can trivially determine your speed and whether you were steering straight. Many cars contain accellerometers - you would imagine that would be recorded too. Still - it can't tell whether you were using your cellphone at the time...which is a shame really.

    The only way to prevent this stuff from being recorded would be to replace the engine management computer with something else - but in a modern car that's pretty much impossible - every aspect of the vehicle being tied together these days. (eg The radio in my MINI adjusts it's volume automatically depending on your speed and whether the windows and/or sunroof are open - so expect that if you swap out the computer, your radio and windows won't work anymore even if you somehow manage to get the engine running again).

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